Smile, Your Smartphone’s Taking Your Personal Identity

October 26, 2012

A recent study by Google shows 38% of our daily media interactions occur on a smartphone, with 54 % of us using it to only communicate with someone and 33% of us using it for entertainment.

Most smartphone users consider their phone as their go-to device … immediate, quick, precise feedback. Smartphone and mobile devices are ingrained in our daily routine.

Downloading apps to make smartphone use easier are available for everything from browsing the Internet to shopping online, from planning a trip to managing finances. There are any numbers of social networking apps.

Now, a new malware program is targeting smartphones and mobile devices. A recent discovery by the Naval Surface Warfare Center and Indiana University should remind everyone of the security risk you carry in your pocket everywhere you go.

This malware is nasty, and runs on phones running Android 2.3 and later. It hijacks your phone’s camera, snapping pictures of your surroundings and sends them back to an offsite server, where they can be used in a number of ways, ways you may not consider possible.

It’s called the PlaceRaider, and is a program that runs in the background, muting your phone while taking pictures. That’s right, you don’t hear the “snap” of the shutter sound, because the malware mutes your camera first.

It gives candid pictures of your surroundings: who you’re with, where you’re at, and anything of value you may have. All images pass a filter, sorting out the dark and blurry images.

But there’s more, the malware uses your phone sensors to track your location and pinpoint your position.

The U.S. Naval Center has copied the malware, created a test scenario, and determined that with some expertise, this PlaceRaider pictures could be used to steal your personal information – banking information on personal checks or crucial business secrets

Experts say while it was developed to be hidden in Android platform, it could easily be converted and moved into the IOS or Windows Phone.

BBB suggests phone users take steps to stop this malware by checking out reviews on the app before downloading it; make certain all firewall protections are in place, and upgrading virus and malware protection software.

BBB recommends:

- Password protect your phone. Most smartphones allow you to lock your phone with a password or screen pattern. Make sure this security measure is enabled for all mobile payment applications. If you lose your phone and someone takes it, this can prevent him or her from gaining access to your personal information.

- Consider disabling auto-populate features. Some phones have the option to automatically store your username and password for each application. Keep the feature off so you don’t make accidental purchases.

- Avoid making transactions over public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi networks may not be secure and hackers could steal your personal information.

- Use a different password for each application. This adds more protection should someone steal your smartphone and attempt to access your mobile payment applications.